Best Health Insurance Companies for Small Businesses

For the purposes of health insurance coverage, a small business is generally considered an employer that has one to 50 employees, not counting the owner and their spouse or family members. However, some states and private companies include businesses with one to 100 employees in their definition of a small business. You can use the Small Business Health Insurance Options Program (SHOP) to find ACA-compliant group plans, which you can offer to employees by purchasing coverage with help from an agent or broker. A SHOP plan is the only way to qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit if you meet the eligibility requirements. If you can’t find a plan on the SHOP marketplace, you can find one directly through insurance company websites.

If you offer SHOP coverage, you must offer it to all full-time employees and have an office or worksite in the state where you’re applying for coverage. Not all providers offer SHOP plans, and they may not be available everywhere. Whether you decide to enroll in a SHOP plan or another group health insurance plan, you’ll want to choose a reputable company that prioritizes your employees and their healthcare needs. We evaluated companies based on the benefits they provide and their third-party ratings, so you can choose the right health insurance partner for your small business.
Best Health Insurance Companies for Small Businesses

Final Verdict

Blue Cross Blue Shield was our top pick all-around, and will be an especially good choice in regions where BCBS has high customer satisfaction ratings, robust workplace wellness programs, and other benefits. But if a convenient app with easy access to virtual care is most important to your employees, you may want to go with Oscar. And if you want the best customer experience for your employees, Kaiser is an excellent choice. 

We recommend Aetna for small businesses pursuing self-insurance, and UnitedHealthcare is the best option for businesses that want the most extensive benefits package, especially those who want options for their variable-hour employees. Your budget and location may also limit your choices, but our top picks are all reputable providers that offer good coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Get Health Insurance for a Small Business?

If you’re self-employed, check the best health insurance companies for self-employed workers. Otherwise, you have a couple of options: The first is to work directly with a private insurer to get a fully-insured or self-funded plan. The second is to compare plans offered through the Small Business Health Insurance Options Program (SHOP), and to purchase coverage directly or with help from a broker. 

While this program offers robust options in some states, others have limited or no plans available. Generally, getting SHOP coverage is the only way to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which could save you up to 50% on your premium contributions. You must meet other eligibility requirements as well.

Do Small Businesses Have to Provide Health Insurance?

No employer is required to offer health coverage for its employees, but companies with at least 50 employees that do not offer health coverage are subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment. If you choose to offer health insurance coverage to your full-time employees, you must offer it to all full-time employees once they become eligible, and there is a 90-day maximum waiting period.

How Much Does Small Business Health Insurance Cost?

Your total cost will depend on several factors, including the location of your business and the type of network you choose. In 2021, businesses with fewer than 200 employees spent an average of $6,569 per employee on annual health insurance premiums for single coverage and $14,094 for family coverage.
2 Experts generally recommend keeping group health insurance costs between 10% and 20% of your annual revenue. 

What Is a Self-Insured Health Plan?

A self-insured health plan is a type of group health insurance in which the employer collects premiums and is responsible for paying claims when employees need care. These plans can be self-administered, or the business may work with an insurance provider to get stop-loss coverage and administrative support. 

There are several benefits to self-funded plans. Employers can keep surplus premiums (or receive a portion returned by the stop-loss carrier), plans can be customized to a greater degree, and certain ACA provisions that lead to high costs can be avoided. Increasingly, small businesses are opting for self-funded coverage. But self-insured plans aren’t right for every business.


We compared the largest health insurers nationwide and considered criteria in the following categories to determine the best health insurance companies for small businesses.

Customer satisfaction: We used NCQA ratings and performance in the J.D. Power U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study to measure this criteria. 
State availability: This measure indicates how widely available plans are across the U.S.
Plan features: For each company, we researched the types of plans available, plan features and benefits, the provider network, available wellness programs, and discounts.
Types of employees covered: We considered whether coverage is available for full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers. Accessibility: We considered how easy it is for members to navigate plan services.


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